A band of militiamen left their jungle base on New Year’s Eve and roamed Beni, the forested northeastern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in search of people to kill. The Congolese army was warned by locals, but they were ignored.
The gang found 25 people – men, women and children – cultivating food on small farms in Tingwe, only a few kilometers from a DRC army base. Hardly a month went by in the last six years that I didn’t get horrific pictures of people being killed in Beni.
Nearly 300 people have been killed in just three months, from November 2019 to January 2020 – most of them women and children. Forty of them died in May.
In July, the United Nations announced that 793 civilians were killed, 176 injured and 717 others kidnapped in attacks over the past 18 months. Investigators also said that crimes against humanity and war crimes may be at stake.
In September, October and November, hundreds more were killed. DRC demonstrators demand justice for unprosecuted rapes and killingsRead moreThis scale of massacres typically triggers a powerful U.S., EU and U.K. Answer, as they ought to. UN peacekeepers are deployed to the area, communiqués are released and an investigation is initiated by the government.
None of this has occurred in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We Congolese have been killed in several different ways since 1996: by our former President, Joseph Kabila, and by his generals.
Using rape to punish, displace, kill, and humiliate Congolese women and their families and communities as a tool of war (an estimated 1,200 women are raped every day, and have been since 1996).
To the armies of Rwanda and Uganda.
Via famine and infection. We are being destroyed by mortars and machetes right now. The first massacre in Beni happened in 2014; exactly one year after Congolese and UN forces defeated the M23 – a militia gang in the DRC allegedly backed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. We’re in the seventh year of these massacres right now. Yet the killing has been permitted to continue by an insensitive international community, taking more lives every week. The Kinshasa government blames the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group for the deaths, a theory that few Congolese accept.
Moreover, a report from the UN Security Council accused General Muhindo Akili Mundos of financing and supplying the killings to the militias. Another study showed that up to $250 for each killing was allegedly offered to recruits.
Instead of facing justice, our new president, Félix Tshisekedi, instead promoted Mundos to deputy inspector of the army, leaving Beni’s Nande citizens to their fate. Violence has been condemned by the U.S. and the EU – their ambassadors in Kinshasa frequently tweet their indignation and sympathy – but that’s about it; they give the world the false idea that something is being done to stop the killings, as if someone is being shielded from justice. That may be why the United States has blocked the creation of an international criminal court for the Democratic Republic of Congo to end the impunity that fuels violence in Beni and elsewhere in the country, while six million more Congolese are now living in displacement camps, unable to return to their homes because of violence and hunger. The peacekeepers are clearly failing-a UN report has already documented more than 600 war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Yet the feeling that nothing can change, that the Congolese people have been abandoned, I cannot shake. The death and destruction we have suffered – the more than 5.4 million deaths between 1998 and 2008, half of whom were children under the age of five, the widespread devastation of villages, cities and towns, the relentless use of rape and machetes and axes in Beni and elsewhere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, seem to be irrelevant.
I believe that what is happening in Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is genocide – and the UK, US and EU stance on impunity that fuels these killings is shameful. And, complicit. – Vava Tampa is a community organizer, freelance writer specializing in Af